The bones of “Peking Man” went missing in 1941, but the Zhoukoudian site outside Beijing where they were first discovered in 1921 was much better than I expected and well worth the trip. We followed our own “Travel Tips for Beijing” (download the four pages by clicking here) and got a taxi driver to undertake the trip to Zhoukoudian – with a stop at the Marco Polo Bridge – for a price even less than that we suggest in our tips. Here is the UNESCO information page about the Peking Man site.
At left is my photo of one of the caves excavated on the steep rocky hillside. I was fortunate in making the trip with two young “anthro major geeks” whose classes on early humankind obviously came back as we walked around the exhibit center, with odd bits of information surfacing every few minutes. Useful for me, as I certainly never took an anthro or archeology class. In fact, my main source of information on Peking Man is a novel.
We puzzled over why people would have chosen that particular spot to live – and live they did, for quite a long time, given that there were six meters of ash layers in one spot. It was a hot, smoggy July day so we couldn’t see the view of the valley and other mountains, but we got a sense of the larger terrain from a dizzying video in the exhibit center. I loved the photos and busts of all the scholars who worked there – Swedish and Austrian as well as Chinese.
We thought that including the replicas of the boxes that were lost in 1941 was a great idea, but agreed that it would be a good idea to add a sign in multiple languages with a phone number offering a reward for information leading to the recovery of Peking Man. Who knows?